If you’ve been following my column, you may recall how I started working in the fitness industry as a part-time personal trainer in June 2009. This month, I will surpass another milestone in my side career as I celebrate 10 years in teaching group fitness classes.

My love for teaching group fitness started after I took my first instructor training in January 2010 while I was living in Florida. I attended an eight-hour training to teach Zumba, a dance-fitness style workout. After I completed the full-day session and received my certification, I was unsure if I could confidently get in front of a room full of people and teach them safe and effective exercise movements.

While I have always been a fan of taking numerous group fitness classes as a participant, I had doubts I could ever be the person leading the class. Just as I was ready to give up on the idea, I was offered the opportunity to take over a weekly morning Zumba class at a women’s-only gym. I was terrified. What if they hate me? What if I forget the choreography? What if I fall flat on my face?

But after discussing the opportunity with my husband, I decided to go for it. Suddenly, I found myself just two weeks away from teaching my first group fitness class. Preparing for this new endeavor was stressful and exhausting — especially since I also have a full-time job.

I was required to prepare and memorize choreography to about 15 songs for a one-hour class. During this preparation process, I became so overwhelmed I almost called my fitness manager to tell her to give the class to someone else. I found myself nearly in tears at one point, because I was struggling to memorize my routines and was physically drained from practicing over and over. It just didn’t seem like it would be possible to be ready in time.

As I had the phone in my hand ready to make the call to quit, I decided to reach out to my mother first. After a much-needed mother-to-daughter pep talk, I took a deep breath and pushed forward in preparing for my class.

When the day for me to teach finally arrived, my stomach was in knots. I arrived at the gym early with my music ready to go. Women crowded the space outside the group fitness room as they were waiting for the class before mine to finish up. The moment of truth was within a matter of minutes.

It was time! The previous class began to clear out and participants for my class started to fill the room. The other instructor stayed to help me set up my music and I put the mic on for the first time. I introduced myself, pressed play and class officially began.

An hour later, my first class was in the books. Did I fall on my face? No. Was it a perfect class? No. But I was fortunate to have a group of women who were incredibly kind and supportive. Overall the class was a success. From then on, I was hooked.

Ten years later, I’m certified to teach seven Zumba formats and three Les Mills formats. These formats range from teaching strength and conditioning exercises to teaching workouts in the water. I’ve taught at gyms, athletic clubs, dance studios, country clubs, wellness centers and corporate locations. Now I teach six to seven classes a week at two locations in Colorado Springs.

Getting the opportunity to teach group fitness classes weekly has been a true gift as it has greatly improved my frame of mind. Plus, it has allowed me to meet some amazing people. Being a part of the group fitness culture can feel like a mini community. Although we may all have different fitness goals, it’s incredible to see a group support each other no matter the circumstances.

The learning will continue for me as I do my best to improve my skill set as an instructor with every class. To those of you who have been a part of my fitness career, thank you. I feel grateful that I consistently have the opportunity to help others accomplish their wellness goals.

Stephanie Swearngin teaches group fitness classes at VillaSport Athletic Club and Spa and VASA Fitness.

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